Ottawa was our favorite city on the trip. The kids loved it because it was the first city that spoke English and after a week of being in French territory that was a welcome comfort. Buffalo Wings were back on the menu at restaurants. We didn’t even get to explore much because we were there during the Canada Day weekend and they had a ton of activities to do. Canada Day fell on Monday, July 1 and Ottawa started its party that Saturday.
We stayed in an Air BnB for the first time ever. I was really nervous something was going to go wrong and we’d end up with no accommodations on a busy Canada Day weekend. It all went fine though and it was located in the busy, bustling Byward market district. If you ever stay in Ottawa, this is the place to stay. There are tons of restaurants, shops and outdoor vendors in this 4 square block area.
Casey mentioned during planning that Ottawa did lots of activities and stuff for Canada Day. I had no idea the extent of free things, free activities and fun that awaited us. On Canada Day itself, all of the museums and public transit is free. There’s free entertainment at Parliament all day long. At night there is a giant fireworks display that rivals any display I’ve ever seen.
The whole weekend leading up to Canada Day people greeted us with “Happy Canada Day!” and there were free things everywhere. We got free maple fudge, free Canadian flags, and they had free water filling stations all over the downtown area. If you didn’t bring your bottle, they had glasses provided.
In Major Hill Park, they had a two day festival set up with vendors, booths and entertainment. Tim Hortons had a free photobooth, there was a mobile arcade with free pinball machines and various companies were handing out free things. In the U.S., that would have all cost a fee.
The beautiful Byward Market
The beautiful Byward Market
Street Performer in the Byward Market
Honeypuffs, a Greek treat they sell in a cart in the Byward Market
Free Pin Ball machines in Major Hill Park
My boys in front of Parliament
We explored the downtown area of Ottawa, saw the Fairmount (there seems to be one in every major Canadian City), the Rideau Canal, and checked out where we’d have to go to get into the Canada Day show the next day. The city was fully decked out in Canadian flags and banners and preparations were being made for the July 1 festivities.
We found another board game cafe and had lunch there and played some board games to avoid the crowds. Because of the crowds, we ate all of our meals at off peak times and made out fine. Plus, our family is a little on the night owl side of things so we stayed up later and got up later. It worked out great.
Next Level board game and video game cafe
On July 1, actual Canada Day, we had breakfast at a diner in the Byward Market before heading to Parliament for their noon show. We had to walk a few miles to get to the secuirty entrance and then waited in the heat and sun in the grass in hopes that maybe we’d get to hear Justin Trudeau speak. He was in Japan two days earlier for the G20 summit so we weren’t sure if he’d be there. Canadians assured us that he never missed a Canada Day.
We were wearing our Canada Day shirts (the boys only agreed on wearing red shirts) and we were given our free Canadian Flag on the way into the show. Everyone was decked out in their red and white. We even saw Captain Canada. (I think Cap would be mad that he ripped off his look)
Casey got to see Mounties and the Royal Guard. Justin Trudeau and his family appeared and then spent 15 minutes walking around shaking people’s hands that were along the barriers. All of a sudden the big screen lights up and the camera pans to another person that walked in with the Trudeaus- RYAN REYNOLDS!! Deadpool showed up to Canada Day. I forgot he was Canadian until that point. We were about 50 feet away from him. It was very exciting.
A bunch of Canadian singers we had never heard of but seemed to be very popular performed. It was great and the message of the day was of happiness, inclusion, peace and acceptance.
Finally, the Prime Minister got up and gave a speech about the importance of taking care of each other and accepting each other in spite of their differences. It was such an inspiring and beautiful speech. Very different from what our politicians have been speaking about recently. My kids left that show wanting to move to Ottawa. I told them to wait until January, we’ll visit then and see how they feel.
After a long afternoon of fighting very polite crowds and being in the sun, we decided that rather than try to navigate the public transit system to get to a possibly overcrowded museum, we’d go back and take a nap.
We had dinner at an all you can eat buffet that was slightly better than a Golden Corral and then headed out to get a great spot for the fireworks. We found a spot on the bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau but about a half hour before the show, the police closed the bridge and we had to find a different spot. We ended up near the Art Gallery, which turned out to be a perfect spot. The big glass tower of the gallery made a good foreground for the fireworks. The show was almost 20 minutes long and featured fireworks I had never seen before. It was the coolest thing we’ve seen. (Dillon said Disney’s was on par)
I thought the Parliament building looked like Hogwarts Castle but my kids told me not to call it that as it might insult the Canadians.